Euro 2016

Ibrahimovic missing against the Irish

Sweden's Zlatan Ibrahimovic (front) in action against Ireland's Robbie Brady (left). The Paris St Germain hero cut an anonymous figure as his side failed to manage a single shot on target.
Sweden's Zlatan Ibrahimovic (front) in action against Ireland's Robbie Brady (left). The Paris St Germain hero cut an anonymous figure as his side failed to manage a single shot on target.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

PARIS • In the city where they are accustomed to savouring his magic, Zlatan Ibrahimovic once again failed to live up to his own exalted billing for Sweden as he went missing in their fortuitous 1-1 draw with the Republic of Ireland on Monday.

It might have been his cross that Ciaran Clark headed into his own net to salvage a point for Sweden in their Euro 2016 Group E clash. But, otherwise, the 34-year-old Paris St Germain hero was an anonymous figure as his side failed to manage a single shot on target.

"We lack quality," captain Ibrahimovic said after the final whistle, hinting that his team-mates had to share the blame. "When you think of the balls I got... I try, but I can do much better."

For all his dazzling performances down the years, particularly in the City of Light for PSG, Ibrahimovic has often been found wanting on the biggest stages and again he struggled to find any sort of rhythm in the place he has called home for the last four years.

But the ease with which he was subdued by Ireland's journeyman defence poses serious questions as to whether he can thrive in the English Premier League, where he is rumoured to be destined.

NOT MY FAULT: IBRA

We lack quality. When you think of the balls I got... I try, but I can do much better.

ZLATAN IBRAHIMOVIC , Sweden's star player and captain, pretty much blaming his team-mates for his underwhelming performance against Ireland.

Wes Hoolahan had put Ireland ahead just after half-time with a peach of a goal, but Clark's howler under pressure in the 71st minute gave the Swedes a share of the spoils which they hardly deserved.

Ibrahimovic was not the only one who failed to deliver, with the Swedes looking nervous in the first half as they struggled to get to grips with the busy midfielder Hoolahan.

The skill and trickery of Ireland's scorer was one of few bright spots in a turgid opening half that was littered with errors and sloppy play, but at least the Irish defence managed to keep Ibrahimovic quiet.

"I thought the players played him exceptionally well. I thought that we were dominant in that aspect," Ireland coach Martin O'Neill said.

With Italy up next and Belgium waiting in the wings, Sweden's undisputed leader on and off the field will have to up his game considerably if they are to have any chance of making the knockout stage.

To do so, he will have to find a way of eluding defenders considerably more gifted than those fielded by the Irish.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 15, 2016, with the headline 'Ibrahimovic missing against the Irish'. Print Edition | Subscribe